Keeping the doors open

Retirement can close a small business forever, but a new program will help students to buy in

A conversation Wallace Meyer of the School of Business had with an economic developer in Goodland sparked an idea that could help sustain communities across Kansas.

The developer told Meyer that the most worrisome thing facing his town was, “We have no one to succeed our small-business owners when they retire.”

Goodland isn’t alone: The owners of about 13,000 small businesses — nearly a quarter of all such businesses in Kansas — hope to retire within five years but have no plans for the future of their firms.

Meyer, director of KU’s Entrepreneurship Program, and colleagues created the Succession Planning Cooperative LLC, known as RedTire because it strives to “redefine retirement” for small-business owners. It will identify KU and Kansas State University students in such core areas as pharmacy, medicine, agriculture, and banking who hope to live in Kansas communities. These students will be matched with local business owners, and RedTire will guarantee loans to help the students purchase those businesses when their owners retire.


Pharmacist Kay Brenner and her husband, Vic, have owned Kay’s Pharmacy in Herington since 1981 and have had several KU student interns.


Wallace Meyer directs the KU School of Business Entrepreneurship Program.

RedTire is “a wonderful program. ... It gives me hope.”

-Kay Brenner, owner of Kay’s Pharmacy in Herington

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